Police investigating graffiti at Shaar Zahav as hate crime

Sign up for Weekday J and get the latest on what's happening in the Jewish Bay Area.

A swastika-like scrawl and other markings found dirtying the wall of Congregation Sha'ar Zahav Monday might have been nothing more than the latest addition in a San Francisco neighborhood rife with graffiti, according to a synagogue official.

"It's upsetting when something like this happens, but I don't think it's something to be overly alarmed about," said Sha'ar Zahav President Lisa Katz. "Unfortunately graffiti is an epidemic problem in this city as a whole, particularly in the Mission District."

Sha'ar Zahav's building has been targeted with graffiti before, added Katz, but never with anything "related to acts of hate" like a swastika.

Police are investigating Monday's incident as a hate crime but currently have no leads.

The 15-by-30-inch swastika-like symbol, which was not fashioned correctly according to Katz, was drawn in black marker on the wall of the synagogue's northwest corner.

Police also found other unidentified symbols scrawled on the same wall in various shapes and colors, possibly with a different type of writing instrument. The markings were originally believed to be gang related, but after running them by the police department's gang experts it was determined to be "just a bunch of scribbles," said Anna Brown, San Francisco Police Department inspector.

She said it was unclear whether or not the various markings were incurred at the same time.

"Sometimes with graffiti, people tend to come along and add to it," she explained.

On the same day, San Francisco police found a swastika drawn in chalk on a sidewalk on Alabama Street. This swastika "was not in front of or on any type of property that was Jewish in nature" and did not appear to be related to the synagogue incident, said Brown.

Both the chalk swastika and the synagogue graffiti were promptly removed after police gathered evidence and took photographs, she said, "so people walking by would not be offended."

Following the Sha'ar Zahav incident, the congregation contacted the Jewish Community Relations Council and the Anti-Defamation League.

But Katz remains skeptical that the perpetrator will be caught since "many kids in the Mission District have markers."